Humanitarian Tikun Olamniks

It’s always interesting to read the articles on the Galus Australis blog. One article bemoaned the fact that Orthodox Rabbis had the audacity to state their view about marriage. The article purported to suggest that since marriage is effectively a matter of private ritual, Rabbis should have nothing to say about ritual in a western pluralist society. As usual, those Tikun Olamniks remove the words “BeMalchus Shakay”. It’s uncomfortable to mention those two words; they don’t fit a pre-conceived agenda.

The reason that Tikun Olamniks like to separate “ritual” from “ethics and morality” is sometimes related to the issue of separation of Church and State. There is a fear that if ritual is permitted to impregnate western laws, those who pine for a Godless or a progressively self-reforming and evolutionary morality will be stymied and forced to tow a particular religious line.

I am a supporter of separation of religion and state. A primary consideration for me is that religion is better served and internalised when it isn’t canonised by our political paragons of purity.

Ironically, that right of free speech doesn’t extend to an organisation whose name bothers some. So let’s fix a few things:

  1. lets call them the Organisation of non Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Humanist Rabbis
  2. lets assume they have been elected to their positions in a formal ballot
  3. lets assume that the laws of the land permit such a group to make statements outside of ritual.

What are we left with? We are left with the objection that since civil marriage isn’t ritual but a form of contract/commitment between two people, a group representing the major strand of Judaism should not comment about the nature of the parties to that commitment, if and when that issue is brought to the parliament and public eye.

Just imagine, if you will: parliament is drafting the parameters of IVF law. Should ORA not make a submission? If the IVF laws are problematic to ORA, should they make no statement? Or perhaps the issue of IVF isn’t as sensitive to the tikun olamniks as commenting about the institution of marriage?

Red herrings exist everywhere; sometimes even with a hechsher. One of the big red herrings at present is the statement which implies that there ever was some policy explicit or implicit to be “insensitive and non inclusive” to those with a disposition towards the same gender. I have read about not giving an Aliyah to someone who has married a non jew. I have read about not giving an Aliyah to someone who publicly desecrates shabbos. I have also read about not giving an Aliyah to those who have been accused of despicable crimes and await their day in court. I have never read that one should refrain from according standard honour to someone with a disposition towards the same gender. I have seen those with such a disposition get called up to the Torah.  Still, it is a positive step to make explicit that one should not discriminate/hate people because they have a gender disposition.

It is entirely appropriate for the Rabbinate to make comment and provide input regarding the authentic Jewish view of marriage. It is also churlish to call upon the Rabbinate to therefore also make pronouncements about idol worship and the like because these are noachide laws. I’m not sure I see a law being proposed that suggests that idols be formally enshrined as valid gods for the purpose of worship. You can assume, though, that if such legislation was ever proposed, the Rabbis would and should have something to say about that.

Author: pitputim

I've enjoyed being a computer science professor in Melbourne, Australia, as well as band leader/singer for the Schnapps Band. My high schooling was in Chabad and I continued at Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh in Israel and later in life at Machon L'Hora'ah, Yeshivas Halichos Olam.

4 thoughts on “Humanitarian Tikun Olamniks”

  1. It’s good to know that your views accord with those of a prominent Australian rabbi…

    See the post on the “OzTorah” blog of Rabbi Dr Raymond Apple, formerly of Sydney’s Great Synagogue, on whether clergy – not just rabbis – have a right to buy in to public debates…

    Another post on his blog on “tikkun olam” – see the last line about how non-orthodoxy having hijacked the concept and elevated it into something more than it is:


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